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Vectren agrees to settlement in Indiana gas explosion

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Vectren Corp. has agreed to pay $75,000 in penalties and take other steps in response to a natural gas explosion that destroyed a southern Indiana home and injured five people.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission will consider a settlement Wednesday that also requires Vectren to modify its procedures because of the Nov. 8, 2011, explosion in New Albany.

Vectren conceded in the settlement filed in August that a utility subsidiary failed to follow proper procedures for gas leaks before last year's explosion, The News & Tribune reported. Commission documents show workers didn't notify authorities until more than an hour after they struck a pipeline. By that time, the explosion had occurred.

The settlement has been agreed to by Vectren and the IURC's separate investigative agency, but still must be accepted by the commission.

"We will consider the settlement agreement. However, the commission may approve, modify or deny it based on its findings," commission spokeswoman Danielle McGrath said Monday.

A Vectren spokesman did not return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

James Francis, director of engineering and asset management for Vectren, told the commission in a hearing Friday that the agreement "was a fair and reasonable resolution," the News & Tribune said.

Francis said workers tried to repair the breach instead of reporting it to Vectren. He said the utility began investigating the accident just a few days later and met with the pipeline subsidiary so similar situations could be avoided in the future.

The homeowners still can file legal action under the settlement.

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